Unai Emery and Arsenal: A love story crying out for patience
The Arsenal dugout was once manned by a serene Frenchman. A certain Arsene Wenger, who defied the ravages of time to remain in the hot-seat for an unprecedented 22 years.
Inevitably, people grew tired of his style of management and with positive results few and far in between, he invariably fell victim to the ‘WengerOut’ chants.
Thus, when a Spaniard, with a completely different skill-set was installed at the helm, many believed him to be the lover who would make Arsenal complete again.
Despite Unai Emery enjoying a decent start, things have started to fall apart recently and the moans and groans from the Emirates’ terraces are for everyone to hear. Yet, patience is a virtue and one that definitely needs to be accorded to Emery.
The 2018-19 season so far has been topsy-turvy with old shortcomings rearing their ugly heads. However, it would be extremely harsh to say that Arsenal haven’t looked different from the seasons gone by.
Though the fighting attributes the Gooners crave has been missing in recent weeks, it was most certainly on display against Tottenham and Manchester United. Additionally, their ability to emerge victorious through sheer perseverance earned them rave reviews during the initial months. Hence, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the new regime.
A closer look at the Spaniard and his predecessor’s style of management would lead the majority to conclude that the pair are easily distinguishable in their methods. Though each likes to play with attacking verve, the conceptualisation is entirely different.
Arsene took pride in his side’s ability to keep the ball and pass his opponents into submission.
Emery, on the other hand, likes his team to use high-energy, heavy grapple moves to grind them down. The difference can be clearly observed in the way Arsenal attack these days and how the more direct route has enabled Aubameyang and Lacazette to flourish.
The increased attacking intent has also led to the Gunners scoring six more goals after 22 games than in 2017-18.
Moreover, he has succeeded in adding bite to the midfield with his new enforcers Torreira and Guendouzi embracing the ‘EmeryBall’.
But, defensively, the Spaniard hasn’t been able to tide over the difficulties that reigned supreme in the latter part of Arsene’s spell. And it is these deficiencies that have caused the lion’s share of discontent.
Apart from the defensive shortcomings, Emery’s handling of his star players has left a lot to be desired. The most high-profile fallout has occurred between him and Ozil whereas the former’s stubbornness to not award Ramsey a contract hasn’t gone down well either.
With these occurrences, the Gooners now feel that their manager is a little too bold and indulgent for their liking, which is startling considering the numerous complaints regarding the Laissez-faire approach of Wenger.
But, one must not forget that when the time for change eventually arrives, one needs to brace oneself for something a bit different, something that acts as a tonic to the ailments that plagued previously.
For those who had become accustomed to Arsene giving a long rope to his players, now need to align themselves with the change they had been advertising all along.
Of the various stages of team building, Arsenal now find themselves in the middle of the ‘storming’ period where some tough decisions are being made to prepare the Gunners for harder times.
On such occasions, it is imperative to remember that Emery is still only making the best use of a hand he has been dealt. Thus, the Gooners need to firmly back the Spaniard and not jump to conclusions too soon.
Apart from the most ludicrous of fairy tales, there are hardly any instances where the perfect relationship has come to fruition at the drop of the hat.
Love stories take time to brew and rarely ever provide a happy ending without a struggle. ‘Romeo and Juliet’ wouldn’t have been as much a fable had the pair’s families agreed in the first place.
Closer to football, Arsenal needs to follow the example of its North-Western counterparts. The Premier League would have assumed a different landscape altogether had Manchester City and Liverpool abandoned Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp respectively, after a below-par opening season.
Hence, Arsenal, a club which once stuck its neck out for an unknown Frenchman, needs to do so again for a relatively proven Spaniard.
It would be extremely naïve to expect Emery to make the Gunners an instant success story. After all, even Rome wasn’t built in a day, and similarly, Arsenal won’t be rebuilt overnight.
Yet, with time, it certainly will.